A mother reads to her little boy. The book is nearly as heavy as he is and about carnivores. It has words his mom can’t pronounce. That little boy was me.
I’m less fanatical about animals now, but I still keep track of animal sightings. I may or may not have an extensive collection of field guides. As the photos displayed here make clear, I still love taking pictures of animals. And I still know more latin animal names than is typical for someone without a biology degree. Some people see a plain old eastern garter snake. I see a Thamnophis sirtalis sirtalis.
I grew up in a fantastic place to be a young wildlife lover. Windsor/Essex County has Hillman Marsh, Point Pelee, Brunet Park, River Canard, Pelee Island, Ojibway Park, and Holiday Beach. These accessible, beginner-friendly places loom large in my memory.
I’ve never lived in the boonies or even further than a few paces from other houses. And yet, my yards have always been creeping with life such as praying mantises, blue jays, cardinals, skunks, bats, squirrels, hummingbirds, wolf spiders, oppossums, toads, and other wanted and unwanted visitors.
Fond memories. For instance, once I found a praying mantis in the middle of Devonshire Mall in Windsor. Another time I was biking in LaSalle and a red fox crossed my path. There was the time I captured six-spotted tiger beetles for profit. Then there was the time I was at home sick here in Essex when my wife found a Summer Tanager. That rare and beautiful bird, with its firey combination of red and orange, knocked my socks off and breathed new life into my day.
Time obscures. Or maybe even distorts. I have a list of unresolved questions which I may never figure out.
There’s the early memory of finding a dead Eastern Hog-nosed Snake along the road in a crowded neighbourhood in LaSalle. This is not entirely impossible, but it’s highly improbable. The Ontario Reptile And Amphibian Atlas has no recorded post-1992 sightings of hog-nosed snakes in Essex County. And the ones recorded are a fair ways away from where I found this snake.
I also have a distinct memory of turning over a rock in Northern Ontario and finding a totally orange snake there. There are no completely orange snakes in Ontario. Could it have been a dream that was etched into my memory? Or did time distort the flash of the belly of a red-bellied snake or northern ring-necked snake? I’m not sure I’ll ever know.
Last I checked, I’ve verified seeing 121 animal species in the wild. It’s been a blast, but it is such a small slice of what is out there. I suggest taking some time to look carefully at the wildlife around you. Over time, you will see and experience a lot of fascinating things. It’s a shame that in this era of incredible knowledge, very few of us take time to stop and get a view of some of the most interesting things in the world.